One of the best ways to develop a picture of any company is with the SWOT analysis -- a look at a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Today, I'd like to focus on Intuitive Surgical
- High barriers to entry: Intuitive Surgical has more than 650 U.S. and foreign patents as well as Food and Drug Administration approvals
- Brand strength -- da Vinci robots known among patients
- Near-monopoly in robot-assisted surgeries
- High switching costs: Machines are expensive and not easily replaceable; doctors trained on-site and at nationwide Intuitive Surgical training centers
- Big-ticket purchases make for a long sales and purchase order cycle: cash slow to come in after sale
- Manufacturing these robots is complex and somewhat costly
- Long-term growth heavily reliant on research and development successes and ability to keep top talent
- Global growth: Of 1,482 da Vinci systems in use, 74% are in the U.S.
- Domestic growth opportunities abound, too: Of 5,800 hospitals in the U.S., there are da Vinci robots in fewer than 1,000.
- Procedure growth: Robots are used in cardiothoracic, gynecological, and urological surgeries, but there are many more possible applications.
- If a robot has a defect, significant legal liability and brand/reputational risk
- The health-care industry is heavily regulated
- Imitators: Intuitive Surgical is the first-mover and in 2003 bought its largest competitor, but the threat of cheaper imitator technologies is real.
- Competition from lower-cost pharmaceuticals that achieve what only surgery can today.
- Payment comes from third-party payers. Intuitive Surgical customers are hospitals; hospitals get paid by health insurers.
What parts of Intuitive Surgical's SWOT need more detail? Fill in the blanks by using the comments section below.